Barbican Theatre, London EC2
Opened 7 May, 1992

Well, it isn't as good as Part 1. Julian Glover's dying King and Robert Stephens' reflective Falstaff maintain their respective levels of excellence (joined by David Bradley's superbly doddering Justice Shallow, whose senile witterings are timed to perfection) unfortunately, so does Michael Maloney as Hal. His all-front, cardboard-cut-out performance grows progressively more irksome as kingship looms, and the sudden and fundamental reversal in Hal's character is seen to consist of Maloney dropping his voice half an octave.

More worryingly, there were occasions on the press night when actors stopped in mid-phrase, having lost the meaning of their own lines. This is symptomatic of director Adrian Noble's approach to the plays: his predilection for grandeur and spectacle can pay dividends, but his interpretative house lacking a coherent relationship with the text is hollow and built upon sand. The climactic moment when newly-crowned Harry the Fifth encounters and disowns old Jack Falstaff comes and goes with nary a frisson, as does much of the evening. If anyone wants, though, to stage Orson Welles' Chimes At Midnight cut of the diptych, they should pursue Stephens post-post-haste.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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